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Chrysler buyout popular

From detnews| May 11 , 2007

DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group -- which is trying to shed 9,000 U.S. hourly positions over three years -- received more buyout applications than it needed at plants targeted for job cuts as part of the automaker's restructuring.

"Corporatewide, we have exceeded our original projections," said Chrysler spokeswoman Michele Tinson. She declined to elaborate.

Chrysler, which posted a $680 million loss in 2006, offered U.S. blue-collar workers at certain plants a retirement package that includes a $70,000 lump sum plus health care and pension benefits. Workers with less seniority were also offered buyout packages worth $100,000 and six months of limited health benefits.

Both programs were made available in early March after the Auburn Hills automaker outlined its restructuring plan Feb. 14.

Union officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was a surge of interest in the buyout offers, particularly for the $100,000 packages.

"Our manufacturing facilities will determine when the accepted programs will be activated," said Tinson, based upon the manpower needs of each targeted factory.

But the wait is dampening the mood at some plants.

"People aren't happy," said Ron Toerper, a worker at Chrysler's Warren Stamping plant, where 420 workers have applied for buyouts.

"They'd like to know their status. You want to plan your future. You like to know what your status is: 'Am I going to retire or am I not?'?"

Chrysler isn't providing an update on the number of applications it has received to date. But by early April, 4,312 union workers in the United States and Canada -- where Chrysler hopes to shave 2,000 blue-collar jobs -- had applied, including 1,600 in Michigan. Chrysler has said it wants to cut 5,875 factory jobs this year. Workers should learn if they can take a buyout by June 30.

Chrysler's offers are competitive with programs at General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., some analysts have said.

"I'm not surprised at the take rate at all," said Fred Hubacker, executive director at Conway MacKenzie & Dunleavy, a turnaround firm in Birmingham. "It looks like what happened at competitors across town and at Delphi."

More than 35,000 Ford hourly workers, or nearly half of the Dearborn automaker's hourly work force, signed up.

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